04/14/2016 3:38PM

Pandolfo: Playing vertical exotic wagers


At many tracks, the biggest pools are the exacta and trifecta pools. At the Meadowlands on Saturday (April 9), the late Pick 4 pool was $64,000 but the exacta pool exceeded that in four races. In the 7th race, the exacta pool was over $80,000 and the trifecta pool was $77,000. When you consider that the exactas and trifectas comprise one race while the Pick 4 is a four-race sequence, it appears that the intra-race, or vertical wagers, are still the most popular.

The best approach to tackling exotic wagers has to vary somewhat depending on the track. Any type of gambling has to be based on percentages. When we look at some of the half and five eighth tracks, most of them have a high percentage of winning favorites. That should mean that it's easier to pick the winner.

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As an example, on the Jersey circuit, at the Meadowlands, which is a one mile track, the favorites are winning at 39%. At Freehold, a half mile track, the favorites are winning at 49%.

Because it's harder to pick a winner at the Meadowlands, sometimes it makes sense to use more than one horse on top. There are times when I'll key a favorite on top in exactas or trifectas at the Meadowlands. But it has to be a horse that I really feel is a standout. Because the races are competitive, I have to face the reality that my top pick may not win.

Honestly, a good approach is to assume that your top pick won't win. My Meadowlands picks are published on the USTA website.  On April 9, I had two winners on top, Western Fame $3.40 and my Best Bet, City Hall, who paid $5.20. Two of my second choices won, Relentless Dreamer $10.40 and Bullet Bob $18.40. Four of my third choices won, Stormin Rustler $55.60, Amped Up $25.40, Triple Major $20.40 and Dr. C's Z Tam $10.00. My third choice won the first three races of the night, all longshots.

So in the 12 races, one of my top three picks won 8 of the 12 races. Going into the night, I didn't expect to pick a lot of winners on top. It didn't look like a chalky night on paper, and at the Meadowlands, you expect that.

Does this mean that I should throw my top pick out and always bet my third pick? Not necessarily, but all horse players have to be honest with themselves.  I want to be a contrarian and pick against the obvious. But, like most people, it's hard not to think logically. I know the horses I put second and third are contenders, but we tend to pick the horse we feel has the best chance of winning. But when you're playing a track like the Meadowlands, you have to look for value. There were a lot of good overlay winners last Saturday.

If you're playing a track that has a high percentage of winning favorites, you can key one horse on top in exactas and trifectas. But at a track like the Meadowlands, where you know it’s not going to be easy to pick the winner, you can key two horses on top.

Here's my advice. First of all, focus on the races where you think you've got a good opinion. If a race has you totally confused, that's probably not a good race to bet.

If you're interested in playing the race, rank your top five contenders in order. On my Meadowlands picks I always give out my top four horses ranked in order, with my own odds line. But if you’re thinking of betting the trifecta or superfecta, rank the top five. Call them A, B, C, D, and E. The "A" horse would be your top pick in the race, and so on. A few minutes before the race, look at the odds. Key two horses on top, the A, which is your top pick, plus whichever horse goes off at the highest odds between the B and the C horse.

Let's say that the A is 9-5, the B is 4-1, and the C is 7-1. Key A, C with A, B, C, D, with A, B, C, D, E. For $1.00 trifectas, this is an $18.00 bet.

If the race is wide open and you're not at all confident in your top pick, and you think that two other horses are much better value, key those horses on top. For instance, say that the A is 9-5, B is 4-1, C is 7-1, D is 12-1. Key the C and D on top. This depends on how competitive the race is, and how strongly you believe in your A horse.

Evaluate the way you think and your past results. Let's say it's a Saturday night at the Meadowlands, the most competitive night. Do you normally pick a lot of winners on top at the Meadowlands? If not, the best approach may be to key the two contenders that have the highest odds. This type of approach puts you in a better position to hit horses that are overlays. Is the master-of-the-obvious approach, betting favorites, working for you? A methodical approach like this sort of forces us to bet overlays instead of underlays.

If you use four horses, for instance, A, C with A, B, C, D, with A, B, C, D, that cuts the bet down to $12.00. But, the toughest horse to pick in the trifecta is the horse that finishes third. Sometimes when a race is wide open and the track has $0.50 cent minimum trifectas, it pays to use all for third, or throw in a few extra horses for savers.

If you're playing exactas instead, using the same top pick and best odds scenario, just use your top four horses, like this, A, C with A, B, C, D in $1.00 boxed exactas, and box the top three for $1.00. That's also a total of $18.00.

When playing a track where the favorites win often, you have to change strategy and use fewer combinations, unless you're patient and wait for a race where you don’t think the favorite is going to win.

To find out more about Pandy’s handicapping theories check out his www.trotpicks.com or www.handicappingwinners.com websites, his free picks at handicapping.ustrotting.com/pandycapping.cfm or write to Bob Pandolfo, 112 Michael Ct., Northampton, PA 18067.

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